Baby Dinosaurs, Pterodactyl Dreams, and Pet Lions (Yes, an entry about Little Z)

A couple of months ago, Little Z became a baby dinosaur. She just started saying it, "I a baby dinosaur." When she dresses in her bumblebee costume, and you say,

"What a cute bumblebee you are!" She'll say,

"I not a bumblebee. I a baby dinosaur dressed in a bumblebee costume."

Of course.

She also has these butterfly wings that I bought for her after Halloween for less than a dollar. She puts them on and "flies" around the house. At this point, she generally specifies that she is not only a baby dinosaur but,

"These are my wings because I a Pterodactyl."

So, don't tell her, but I just learned from the Dinosaur Time Machine that Pterodactyls are not actually considered to be dinosaurs, but rather flying reptiles. Let's not worry about details, though. I mean, flying reptiles- I haven't see any around lately, have you? It seems pretty close to a dinosaur. And, of course, she's three. Three and a half, that is.

Where does she get this stuff, anyway? I think we may have one very thin, silly little book about dinosaurs in the house, and there are no Pterodactyls in it.

I've had a thing for Pterodactyls, myself, ever since my aunt had a band called, "Wingfinger". My journal from my teenaged years was titled, "Pterodactyl Dreams." But I never told Little Z that! Where did she get this obsession with Pterodactyls?


We did figure out today where the name for her little (imaginary) sister Sally came from. Herbert the Lion. The little girl who loves her pet lion is named Sally. Little Z carried the book over to me today and said,

"Let's read Sally's book."

"Is this about your sister Sally?"

"Yes, that's Sally's book!"

Then, it turned out that she named the cat "Tigery- because it for Sally! We share with it. Sally need a Tiger, and we got Tigery!"


I can see myself now in 2051, surrounded by my fifty cats, rocking in my rocking chair and saying, "2011, right here in Wisconsin. Solidarity! We had the spirit! This is where it all began, when Scott Walker signed his ultimatum, and the people peacefully revolted."

"Meow," they will say.

But what happens next? What?

I haven't gone to a protest all week, because I think we've pretty much said what we had to say, because I'm lazy, and because I think maybe we've lost. Yet the national news keeps covering the protests.

I honestly thought, when I first heard of the bill, that I would go downtown and there would be about a hundred people down there with me, mourning the loss of collective bargaining. I have to admit I was terribly wrong about my numbers. I hope I'm wrong again about who is going to win this.

I heard Senator Jon Erpenbach on NPR today, making sense of his decision to flee the state. He wanted to delay the bill being passed so that the people could protest. Okay. That kind of makes sense. The thing that was so odd was that he's my district's state senator. I wrote to him, and he read it! Instantly I feel so much more involved in politics. This was the national news!

I guess when you live in California, it's normal to see or hear your state on the national news, but when you live in Wisconsin, it's really quite rare. That's what I've noticed since I moved to the middle, sometimes called the "flyover zone," because the New Yorkers and Californians just fly over it, but they think that they are really where it's at. Sometimes, they're right. No one normally even knows where Wisconsin is. It's like, you know, somewhere up there with Michigan or Minnesota or something. I'm pretty sure a lot of people don't know that Chicago is 170 miles from my house. I guess that's pretty far, actually. I just digressed. So sorry.

Any predictions, America? How will our labor dispute end?

Reporting live from Wisconsin, this is Cellar Door signing out.

A Return to My Petty and Narcissistic Musings

The meeting for the Glee parody act for the talent show got cancelled because we're all such radical activists. The secretary (who started it all, anyway) sent out an email to everyone involved. She entitled it, "Gleek practice minutes" and included this little bit about costumes,

"We have lots of --MS cheerleading outfits and poms upstairs in storage. We decided that Christian Pear and Lady Elk would be the only ones who can fit into them, so if they are willing, they can wear those! Everyone else will just use the poms (unless this will interfere with the routine?).

"Attire for everyone else will be a plain white T-shirt and blue jeans and sneakers. Julianne Smith will make the T-shirts for us (we're either going to have "Gleeks" or "--MS Gleeks" put on them). Get your T-shirt to Julianne by March 1, and she'll do the screen prints for everyone."

This made me sad. You see, I have been waiting my whole life for the opportunity to ironically perform a number in a cheerleading outfit, and then I get this email saying there are plenty of the outfits to wear, but I'm too fat to wear one! And also, I hate wearing jeans and tee shirts. And tennis shoes? Please. I almost wanted to quite the Glee Club.

Then we had that day when almost no one came to work. The author of the minutes was there, though, and so was I. And no students. So, I got up the nerve to visit her in her office, and I put on my big girl panties and said,

"You know, I only wear a size 10. Are you sure none of those cheerleading uniforms would fit me?"

"Well, that's something we could do today," she said. "We could get those down out of storage. We didn't know you wanted to wear one."

So, hey, maybe a misunderstanding?

I took one that fits me with room to grow. She agreed I looked good and I should wear it.

I'm so glad I didn't go into her office and say,

"Yo Bitch! Who you callin' fat?!" Which was, of course, how I used to do things before I became a professional educator.

A coworker of mine made a nice video of the protests:

A Description of the Protest for Unions at the Wisconsin State Capitol Today

I like lists! And I love Wisconsin.

1. You park in a nearby neighborhood and walk. People are walking away with signs, walking towards the capitol with signs. There is something unusually polite and orderly about these people. (Or did I imagine that? We used to live down in the neighborhood where I parked, and I remember it being quite the motley crew down there, generally. Not so today.) You pass by a "parking ramp" as we say in Wisconsin, and the attendant is telling someone, "I'm sorry. It's all the protesters," and you infer that the lots are all full.

2. There are people marching, round and round the capitol square, chanting, "Kill the bill, Kill the bill!" Holding signs. Holding flags.

3. You decide to see what's going on inside. You join an orderly procession filing in. A policeman guarding the entrance is taking signs on sticks away from protesters and putting them in a neat pile by the door, to be retrieved later. This, in itself, is not entirely out of the ordinary. It's just like they take your umbrella at the museums. What is unusual is that this police officer, at the same time as doing his duty, is chanting along with the protesters, "Kill the bill. Kill the bill."

4. On a normal day, the capitol is one of the most beautiful buildings in America. The capitol building is made mostly of marble. It's probably one of the most expensive buildings in America. There is art painted in gold on the ceilings. In the middle of the capitol is an area shaped like a circle that is open all the way up to the dome, which I believe is the second or third largest dome on this continent. There are sculpted badgers on the walls big as your couch, and if that sounds silly, it's not. Not when it's done right. It is truly something to behold. If you haven't seen it, you should. There are five stories of balconies that look down on this circular area, the Rotunda. Normally, this view might take your breath away.

5. Today, squeezing through the crowd, I make it into the rotunda and see the stories above me full of people with banners hanging off of the balconies, with signs held high. They are chanting. A giant drum is in the rotunda, keeping the chants in sync,

"Union busting..."

Boom Boom

"Is disgusting..."

Boom Boom

"If you have a spine..."

Boom Boom

"you should resign..."

Boom Boom

6. This alone would not have gotten to me, I don't think. But when I read the signs, I was overwhelmed. Not only were people holding signs, but it seemed like whenever someone left the building, they had stuck their sign onto a marble wall, so that the whole building was this massive collage of voices over voices over voices, penetrating the psyche of anyone who could read, and many of them were about unions, and many of the signs were about Scott Walker, and many were about the Bill itself, but the thing that got me was

so many

were about

how much

we all owe



And I confess I sort of teared up a little. Teaching can be so thankless. It was amazing.

6. I want to emphasize that the capitol building was very tenderly, very lovingly decorated by the protesters. We love our capitol.

7. I went to the bathroom, and each stall had a little hand written sign stuck to the door,

"Fellow protester: Please do not vandalize the state building. Thank you."

As far as I could tell, everyone had followed this direction.

8. This was a most polite group. After all, even the police guarding the place are state workers, right? Everyone is united.

9. Cheers rise up, randomly.

10. Children color in the corners. There's a little booth with a sign, "We have earplugs, crayons, and toys for your child."

11. At some point, I realize, this is the most spectacular performance art I have ever seen.

12. Some people have ukuleles. Comically, I never see any guitars or more "normal" instruments, just people singing and playing ukeleles.

13. I'm marching outside, now. The weather is unseasonably warm at 45. I've gotten in with a group who is chanting, "MPI... MPI..." Since I don't know what "MPI" is, I stop chanting.

14. The woman I am marching close to has a sign that says, "REMEMBER: I PROTECT YOUR FAMILY FROM THE CRIMINALLY INSANE." I compliment her on her cleverness. "Oh, I didn't come up with it myself," she says. "My wards did."

15. I still don't know what "MPI" means, and we're marching past the MSNBC truck, filming us. Terrified of being found out as ignorant, I hide behind the, "REMEMBER: I PROTECT YOUR FAMILY FROM THE CRIMINALLY INSANE." sign.

16. Call me a wild hippie if you will. I don't care. The energy in the Wisconsin capitol today was beyond words to describe, and I mean that in a good way.

Live from Somewhere in Wisconsin, the insider's view

I’m finally an insider.

I will now list some of the crazy things that have gone on recently in this great little place where I live, but I will inexplicably use the present tense to describe the past.

1. Governor Scott Walker proposes a bill that will balance the budget!

2. The bill will make a lot of people, teachers included, pay more into their health care and pension plans. Most people I know will have $350 deducted from their paycheck each month.

3. But the crazy thing about this bill, or rather the thing that is making everyone go crazy, is that the bill takes away the Union’s rights to negotiate almost everything.

4. Governor Scott Walker suddenly decides he needs to go Up North for a spell. Right away. He's actually already gone.

9. In what I think is a sophisticated way to play hooky, Middleton High School students schedule a walk out at 11 AM in protest.

4.(?) Teachers organize! I go to the state capitol (did you know that the building is spelled capitol, and the town is spelled capital?) and protest with my three year old daughter. We have a lot of fun. She has a sign on her back, “Put children first.”

5. There’s like 10,000 people protesting with us. Little Z says, “Where the back? Where the back of the people?” I think she meant there was no end to the people.

6. I learn that when teachers organize, they do it in an extremely organized fashion. There are school bus carpools, one after another, pulling up a block away from the capitol. As people get off the buses, there is a guy with a pile of protest signs, handing each person a sign. They are beautiful signs, run off precisely in advance at Kinko’s, I bet. Then they march, they chant, they pay attention when someone makes a speech, they vary the presentation by singing a song or telling a personal story, they sign in at the capitol. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it.

7. Police at the capitol Tuesday night look extremely bored.

8. I see like a zillion people I know at the capitol.

9. 10,000 or more protest with me. That’s a lot.

10. My friend gets stuck in the capitol building hearing testimonies until 1 AM. She doesn't have a chance to go to the bathroom from 3:20 PM until 1:30 AM.

11. The strategy is to have everyone testify and hold off the vote until some congresspeople change their minds and decide to vote against the bill.

12. The strategy doesn't work.

13. Wednesday, Madison teachers call in sick en mass and get school canceled in protest. But those Madison teachers are all just crazy radicals, right?

14. I have my classes read a newspaper article about the protests, and discuss what it all means. My students are pretty mad at me for not calling in sick and getting our school canceled, too.

15. Wednesday night: a message on my answering machine states that if I call in sick on Thursday, I need a doctor’s note. Also, school might be canceled if any more people call in “sick”. Hm... why would they say that? I give them about ten minutes to call again and say school is canceled, because everyone heard the first message and called in sick.

16. Ten minutes later, another phone call says school is canceled for Thursday, because everyone heard the first message and called in sick, but we are all still supposed to report to work.

17. Today: I go to work. It’s really creepy there. They’re saving electricity by leaving a lot of the lights off. There are no kids. There are a few other teachers.

18. Some things I do at work with no kids:

19. grade papers,

20. redecorate a bulletin board,

21. make nice bookmarks for all my students on the laminator machine,

22. make a strange comment that I think is answered by God,

23. (I discover God listens to what you say in the break room),

24. try on a cheer leading uniform,

25. (and I actually looked pretty cute- I think I’ll wear it when I open the talent show),

26. listen to a lot of good music on the 1970’s stereo with built in speakers in the classroom,

27. (the stereo is a complete mystery because the building was built in 2000),

28. watch sixth graders who have been on an overnight field trip come back and look confused,

33. wondering if the zombie apocalypse has come to their darkened, freaky school,

34. their dream come true! Zombies are so cool!

35. Meanwhile, at the capitol, the Republicans send the police after the Democrats who have run away to another state in an attempt to not sign the bill into law!

36. Meanwhile, two of my coworkers are having lunch at the local pub (half an hour, no alcohol) and the band teacher is on CNN!!!!!

37. Apparently, the band teacher is very well spoken, although she is forced to yell over the noise of the crowd at the capitol.

38. Meanwhile, an old man at the pub tells my two fellow teachers who came to work and were eating there at the pub that, at his ten year high school reunion, this guy named Bogly was missing.

39. Bogly had died in a car wreck.

40. They held a memorial for poor old Bogly.

41. At the twenty year high school reunion, Bogly showed up, alive!

41.5. and,

42. it just goes to show,

43. things are not always as bad as they seem.

This has been Cellar Door, reporting live from Somewhere in Wisconsin.

Cheese rules!

At the last moment, Cellar Door has decided that the Green Bay Packers should indeed rule all of pro football and the world (bahahahahaha) because they are the campiest, cheesiest, most ridiculous team around, that's (uh-huh uh-huh) just the way I like it!

Little Z has also declared that she will play for the Packers tomorrow, "If they need my help. They might need me to play."

Stating the Obvious

I used to have this quote at the top of this blog, "Alla dagarna som kom och gick, inte visste jag att det var livet." It means, "All those days that came and went- I had no idea that was what life was." Or something. I'm not a good *translator. I saw it engraved in a block of wood above the door of the kitchen in a little old lady's house in Sweden.

If we are really to live all of these days that are coming and going, and to believe that this is all that life is, then we have to really consider our life's work, right? (This is whole thing is a grammatical nightmare- is it our lives' works? Our live's work? Anyway, you get the picture.)

I don't know if I'm really a good teacher. I don't know if this is how I want to spend all those days, coming and going. Today, however, I got bored without it, with the snow day. I really did. So strange.

Sometimes, I think it would be easier to be a stand-up comic, because the audience would heckle less.

I started this thing, though, where I keep track of good days and bad days in the two classes I teach. It's very simple. I just put a happy face or a sad face on the calendar for each class. If I were to tally them at this point, I think it's over 90% happy faces. And yet I obsess over the bad days. Yesterday, there were two unhappy faces, and then with today off, it gave me all that time to think.

At root, the problem with being a teacher is the same problem as with most jobs: you can't feel free to be your true self at work. I feel like I'm in a harness there, trying to walk the line. It's not that I'm some horrible person, but it's that I'm always in a position of authority there, and I'm not really always an authority on anything. The idea of me as constant authority is ludicrous.

Every job I've had has been somewhat like this. Sometimes, I was representing a company. I was required to say things. Now I'm just required to teach things. It's all the same.

All these days that come and go- how do you reconcile the work self with the personal self? The real self with the contrived self you created to get by?

I'm not at all unique. Everyone I know (almost) has this issue. You just don't really like your job. Sometimes, it's tolerable. Sometimes you despise it. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you love it.

It sounds really odd, but I think the ideal job is one you can be completely apathetic about. If you can just say, "Okay. Whatever." And never obsess in bed at night. Or worry if you're good enough at it. Just be there when you're there, not there when you're not there. And then you don't waste all of these days that come and go worrying about crap, because these days, these days are your life. How you spend them, that's how you spent your life.

You never know if you'll look back on this time some day and realize that this time, right now, this was the best time of your life. So I guess we should do the new Wisconsin theme, and **live like we mean it. Cliches like this, though, they're not real advice.

Alla dagarna som kom och gick... do I just spend too much time with teenagers? I'm taking everything so seriously. BAH used to call me Shoshanah E. Newman, because I never worried about anything.

* (I think in Swedish when I hear Swedish, and to translate it is like making my brain coexist in two dimensions at once. I don't know how professional translators do it.)

** I'm so sorry. I just had to post a link to that picture. The old Wisconsin theme was better, anyway.

The snow has taken us back in time.

It's like the nineteenth century out there today. There are no cars and no visible road. And no people, actually. I imagine people on farms in Wisconsin used to be very isolated, all winter long.

Our snowblower won't start.

The third picture here is actually of our street- the one that just looks like some trees. Find the road! It's like a "Find Waldo" picture.

Even with the snowblower broken, this is a nice change, this staying home because we're in a state of emergency and all the roads are closed.